On short notice to Village officials, the state highway department’s contractor will repave Corrales Road from south to north later this month or next. Traffic on Corrales Road (State Highway 448) could be constricted to one lane for up to two months, Village Administrator Ron Curry was told. “This was quite a surprise to us, since there had been no talk about that at all. We’re kind of baffled.”
The immediacy of the repaving project only came to light when the out-of-state paving company, Cutler Re-Paving, Inc., contacted Corrales Planning and Zoning Administrator Laurie Stout asking where it could park its equipment at night.
“No one contacted us, and it looks like no one had any plan to contact us ahead of time,” Curry said.
The Kansas-based company perfected a single-pass re-paving system that uses a long machine to rip up asphalt on a road, grind it up, mix it with a binder chemical and then lay it back down as fresh pavement. The technique was introduced in 1965, and Cutler Re-Paving became one of the nation’s leading practitioners.
On May 13, N.M. Department of Transportation engineer Jill Mosher responded to Mayor Jo Anne Roake’s perplexed inquiry by explaining that the decision to start the project was tied to ongoing discussions about the Village perhaps taking ownership of Corrales Road.
The abrupt start-up was also based on the impending end of the fiscal year; the highway department had unspent funds that needed to be encumbered (or would be lost) by the end of June.
According to Mosher’s email to Mayor Roake, “I knew we were getting the funds encumbered, I did not know they were starting so quickly. I thought the conversations were basing around July, so I thought we had an opportunity to discuss this at the upcoming bimonthly meeting next week. “We ended up being able to get some funds out of this fiscal year’s budget to help, and those have to be spent by the end of June,” Mosher explained.
“Yes, we are proceeding with paving the road as we had discussed previously. We have been trying to keep up with addressing potholes, but since we were planning on postponing/delaying other projects to help with the investment for a potential exchange, we decided to keep that plan regardless if the road is transferred [to Corrales] or not.
“In discussions with others involved in past projects in the area, the last time this project received this kind of maintenance treatment was over 20 years ago, which shows the life cycle of the roadway and overall condition that if the Village decides to proceed with transfer they would be receiving a maintained asset. As we discussed previously, there are many other benefits to a transfer, not just getting new pavement. I hope we can discuss more in the future since I was able to hear some of the concerns from the council.”
That email from Mosher to Roake apparently was triggered by an email from Corrales PZA Stout to Village Administrator Ron Curry at 1:02 p.m. Thursday, May, 13, headed “ Subject: Paving of Corrales Road “I was just approached by a paving company hired by NMDOT to pave the entirety of Corrales Road. (they are wanting to park the equipment overnights and need to find a suitable place.)
“They will begin work at Alameda and move north, they said, and have Corrales Road down to one lane. Work begins May 24th and will last two months.
“In case you weren’t aware…” Ongoing discussion about the possibility that the Village would take over Corrales Road and transform it into a municipal street intensified earlier this year. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.4 April 10, 2021 “Take-Over of Corrales Road Presented at April 20 Council” and No.5 April 24 “Possible Take-Over of Corrales Road Unresolved.”)
For decades, Corrales Road was an unpaved dirt or gravel road that connected Corrales to Albuquerque, a typical farm-to-market route. It finally became what is now State Highway 448 largely by prescriptive easement and was paved in 1946. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXVI No.3 April 8, 2017 “After 71 Years, Time to Re-Build Corrales Road.”)
Village Administrator Ron Curry reported at the council’s March 23, 2021 meeting that the perennial topic of Corrales taking over Corrales Road came up at a regular meeting with NMDOT in mid-March. “So now we have asked the State of New Mexico to make a presentation to the council on April 20. “We recognize that this is a high-profile discussion item and that people have a lot of opinions about it —some are old and some are new— and we expect all of those to come out.
“NMDOT has kind of reached a point where they have reached a window in which they need to plan for it to take place,” Curry continued.
He emphasized the importance of giving Corrales officials, and especially Corrales businesses, ample advance notice about any changes that might require closing Corrales Road. As part of discussions about the future status of Highway 448 in recent years, it has been understood that NMDOT would have to re-pave, if not substantially rebuild, Corrales Road before the Village would agree to take over responsibility for it.
Such a project would have to be incorporated into a future NMDOT budget, which seems to have been Curry’s basis for saying at that time that the department had a current window for making a decision. “If this process begins to move forward, in December of this year, or December of next year, we want to know the exact time line for the disruption, because we want to be as conscious of our businesses along Corrales Road which are already struggling due to COVID.”
The Village Administrator said another topic NMDOT “has alluded to is that they need to encumber the money. If they’re got x-dollars to do this —and they’ll have to color that in for us at the meeting— we want to know what those dollars are and the timelines associated with using it.” Over more than a decade, NMDOT has urged the Village to take responsibility for Corrales Road on the grounds that it doesn’t really fit within the state highway system any longer. Each time the matter has come up, Village officials have resisted for a variety of reasons.
One of those is the high cost of maintaining the road. So in preliminary talks, Village officials have insisted that NMDOT would have to transfer ownership only after the road has been throughly updated and improved. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.17 November 21, 2020 “Finally Time Now To Take Over Corrales Road?”)
For years, the prospect was clouded by NMDOT’s uncertainty over what it actually owned along Corrales Road. For decades, highway officials had said the department generally did not claim any right-of-way in Corrales beyond the edge of the pavement. That might have been true for much of the distance, since it was basically a common-use route which at some point the highway department agreed to pave and maintain —without formally acquiring right-of-way.
Finally about ten years ago, NMDOT contracted for a definitive property line survey along the entire length of Corrales Road and concluded that it did, indeed, own varying widths of road shoulder along most of it.